The Surprising Ways Taking Paternity Leave Helps Your Spouse

Paternity leave is great for you, but it's also great for your spouse.

dad holding newborn baby

Statistically, less than one in three fathers takes more than 10 days off following the birth of their child. Sometimes this is a product of a shoddy system (only a handful of states require employers to offer paid leave for new dads) and sensibility (leaving your job often means making less money). And sometimes it’s a product of stubbornness (many men still believe that child-rearing is not their duty). But taking paid time off work to care for your young children is extremely important for your well-being and for forming a lasting relationship with your child. But if that doesn’t do it for you, do it for your partner. There are quite a few ways taking paternity leave can positively impact your spouse’s health and well being.

It could boost her ability to breast feed.

Studies show that having a partner at home has been shown to boost a new mother’s prolactin and oxytocin levels, hormones that aid in the production of milk. “Adequate milk production can be a source of stress for new mothers — so if a father’s presence can aid in this, moms will benefit greatly,” says Lauren Wallenstein, a California-based parental leave consultant at milkyourbenefits.com, which works to help parents make the most of their leave. She adds that when a father is around, mothers are more likely to breast feed for longer, which could lower her risks of certain cancers, diabetes, and heart disease.

mother breastfeeding child

She’ll be more likely to have an equal partner in parenting — not just a helper.

Experts say that parenting patterns are set early on — if you leave most of the caregiving to your spouse at the outset, you’ll be unlikely to catch up in the division of child rearing labor later on. “Men who are involved block-and-tackle in parenting early on continue to do so and if most or all of the work falls to the spouse, you often see this primary parent role cemented,” says Scott Behson, author of the Working Dad’s Survival Guide and a Professor of Management at Fairleigh Dickinson University. So take up a big role at the outset and you’ll avoid becoming the awkward helper parent.

It will help her recover quicker.

Childbirth puts an enormous strain on a mother’s body, whether she delivers naturally or via C-section. For her to get back to full strength, rest is essential but can be hard to come by in the first few weeks. This can be made even scarcer if a new mom needs to deal with household work. Being available to knock out those tasks at this crucial time will ensure your spouse gets as much rest as she can. You might have other kids to care for, as well. Side bonus for you: look at this as a unique window of time to spend copious amounts of one-on-one time them. “A surprising benefit of my paternity leave after our second child’s birth was the time I got to spend with my first son, who was then four. It was so cool,” says Tim Cederman-Heysom, founder of the tech startup Paperclip.

dad feeding baby

She’ll be able to return to work earlier if she wants to…

Maybe your spouse makes more money than you, so it’s advantageous for your family to have her back at work as soon as she’s ready. Or perhaps she just wants to be back at work. Either way, by taking the full amount of paternity leave available to you, you’re giving her options.

…and she’ll likely make more money in the long run.

According to a 2010 study conducted by the Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation in Sweden, a working mother’s income rose 6.7 percent for every month a father took leave.

She’ll likely be happier.

“Mothers who have fathers around after giving birth are less likely to experience depression,” says Wallenstein. There are other emotional benefits for her, too: The more child-rearing tasks you take on, the more patient you’ll likely become — a key quality you will want to have during the stresses and relationship shifts of new parenting. And the more time you spend with your baby, the more confident you’ll be handling him or her — so when your spouse takes a break, she’ll be able to enjoy her time away from you both and come back refreshed.

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